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Richard Rosenfield, PhD

Brought the Healing Power of Words into Mainstream Psychology

A Note from John Fox: Richard Rosenfield was a friend via the National Association for Poetry Therapy. During a trying time for the organization, Richard provided to me as President, incredibly steady and helpful support. My first significant decision as President was to ask Richard to be our Treasurer. It was my luck that he agreed. As NAPT’s treasurer, he saved the association as we recovered in about 2003 from serious financial trauma.

I will always feel grateful to Richard for this and more for our deep conversations about the healing power of poetry therapy. He died about a year after this powerful essay was written on February 5, 2008. He was 67 years old. I use the word “powerful” to describe this essay because (and this was a great gift that Richard possessed) it is so well-conceived; it emerges, is borne from a dynamic combination of wisdom and vulnerability.

The Primacy of Discovery: Bringing the Healing Power of Expressive Writing to the Psychological Mainstream

I’ve been a psychologist for nearly 40 years. In this talk, originally delivered at the Fall Conference of the Virginia Psychological Association in Williamsburg, VA on October 19, 2007, I have outlined some discoveries that have deepened my understanding of the healing power of words and its place in the psychological mainstream. What I want to focus on in this presentation is to demonstrate the usefulness of expressive writing to foster the process of discovery and to suggest a number of ways that this creative process can be used to facilitate growth and healing, even recovery from trauma.

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The First Words

I can’t quite move.

The first words are so very hard.

The first words?

The more I search,

The harder they are.

The first words?

What a wall to climb

To keep…nothing.

The first words.

If I could find…well,

Something common.

The first words.


“I’m afraid.”

—Richard U. Rosenfield

Richard Rosenfield, PhD
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